Split internally, D.C. Democrats, including the mayor, activists, and the business sector, lack a comprehensive plan to counter this new era of congressional interference.
Why it’s important The bipartisan House vote last week to invalidate two D.C. laws was the first attempt at local unity that failed.
Quick recap: As I previously reported, Mayor Muriel Bowser’s administration declined to fight in the Senate against the repeal of the criminal code because she opposed the measure politically. Now, there are no plans to do so.
Many anticipate it will pass the narrowly Democratic-controlled Senate when it comes up for a vote, most likely in early March. This is because an incredible number of House Democrats voted to repeal the criminal code reform and a law allowing noncitizens to vote in local elections. The bill can be overturned with a simple majority.
According to my calculation, 25 Democrats who had backed the statehood bill from the previous year cast a vote to nullify a municipal ordinance, the noncitizen voting one.
So much for trusting on D.C.’s ability to govern itself.
The mystery: Where is the thunderous, heart-thumping herd of outrage? There isn’t any. It’s evident from my talks with prominent D.C. figures and neighborhood activists that many District leaders have given up on defending home rule on principles they disagree with.
Michael D. Brown, an unpaid “shadow senator” whose principal role is to advocate for statehood, blames the D.C. Council’s leftward tilt for inviting Congress to intervene.
“Why would you send a bill up to a conservative Republican House of Representatives that says you’re going to let a noncitizen vote?” he tells me. “The City Council in the District of Columbia acts like a petulant child.”
The other side: That leaves activists including Patrice Sulton, who advocated for the criminal code revisions Congress is now on the verge of overturning, resigned to sending one pagers to the Senate in the absence of a resourced lobbying effort.
“There is no ringleader,” Sulton says.
The big picture: Despite being home to K Street, D.C. has long lacked a deep-pocketed and effective lobbying campaign for local autonomy. That matters even more now that Republicans are raring to intervene in the District’s governance more than during the Trump years.